Published By the Border Watch
By Raquel Mustillo
SEASONAL BAN: Under Option B, an annual closed season would apply to the South East from October 1 to February 28. During the open season, professional and recreational catches would be limited, with professionals subject to a quota and recreational anglers to trial harvest tags.
MEMBER for Mount Gambier Troy Bell has lambasted the “ridiculous suggestion” of banning snapper catches in the South East as the State Government aims to rebuild South Australia’s “decimated” populations of the species.
A recently released consultation paper proposes two snapper management scenarios, including a three year snapper closure in all South Australian waters until February 28, 2023 and an annual seasonal snapper closure to waters in the South East.
The South East region, which Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) defines as waters south of Kangaroo Island’s Vennachar Point, would be closed from the start of October until February 28 each year under the second proposal.
From March 1 to September 30, the South East would be open under strict conditions which will formally limit the catch for recreational, commercial and other fishers.
Primary Industries and Regions Minister Tim Whetstone said the “drastic action” was required due to a significant decrease in snapper populations in Gulf St Vincent and the Spencer Gulf over the last five years.
He said snapper stocks need to be better managed to allow them to recover back to sustainable levels.
“As this species is long lived and slow growing, if we do not make the right decision now there will be ramifications for years to come and there is a real possibility that our grandchildren will not be able to catch a snapper in South Australian gulfs,” Minister Whetstone said.
While the latest stock assessment information shows snapper populations on the west coast were depleted, South East stock was classified as sustainable.
However, Mr Bell said both a blanket ban and seasonal closure was unnecessary in the South East, with the current level of fishing unlikely to result in depleted stocks.
He said he would “absolutely not” support any restrictions in South East waters and would formally prepare a submission rejecting the notion as part of the government’s consultative process.
“The South East has a completely different environment to the two gulfs and for a majority of the year you cannot even fish here,”
Mr Bell said.
“Our environment has a natural protection of all species from overfishing because of the weather.
“This proposal puts fear and uncertainty into people’s minds where it does not need to be.
“It is a ridiculous suggestion and I do not know why you would put it up when you know it will fail.”
Spot On Fishing’s Jamie Coates said snapper catches in the region accounted for 3pc of the entire statewide amount and echoed Mr Bell’s claims the “minute” impact was a result of inclement weather conditions.
He said the seasonal closure would detrimentally affect South East catches, with most anglers reeling in snapper in the summer seasons.
“On the west coast, if you have a six metre boat, you can go out any day of the year because there are not the waves we have here,” he said.
“The stocks are probably more sustainable in the South East because we are not able to go out every day.
“We also do not get a lot of snapper in the winter and what is caught is usually a by-catch out in the deeper waters.”
Mr Coates said introducing a seasonal closure would likely result in anglers with both South Australian and Victorian licences launching off South Australian shores and catching snapper over the border.
He said stringent restrictions would place pressure on other interstate waters, with commercial fishers in New South Wales and Victoria needing to catch larger numbers to meet consumer demand.
“It could also impact on other species as people target garfish, whiting and crabs because they cannot get snapper,” Mr Coates said.
Currently, a snapper closure applies across the state from November 1 to December 15, with further prohibitions in place in specific spatial spawning areas in Spencer Gulf and Gulf St Vincent until January 31.
Public consultation on the paper is open until August 30.